One Reason Why the N.A.P is Irrelevant

The non-aggression principle (N.A.P) states that aggression is inherently immoral, where aggression is defined as the initiation or threatening of violence against a person or their justly acquired property. Anarcho-Capitalists argue that socialist expropriation of private property is a form of theft and so violates the N.A.P. Thus if we accept the N.A.P then we ought to oppose socialist expropriation of private property. The argument for this is as follows,

1) Theft is the forceful taking of another person’s justly acquired property

2) Expropriation is the compulsory taking of a capitalist’s private property by the workers

3) Given (1) and (2) expropriation is a form of theft

This argument however is invalid. (3) only follows if the capitalist private property is justly acquired because were it not justly acquired then the compulsory taking of said property would not constitute theft as defined by (1).

This problem may motivate a person to alter the definition of ‘theft’ to ‘the forceful taking of another person’s acquired property’. However, were one to make this move then one would have to also draw the unpleasant conclusion that a person who reclaimed their stolen goods from a thief would be stealing from the thief. This is because while the thief did not justly acquire the property, they did nonetheless acquire it when they stole it.

Anarcho-Capitalists must thus alter the argument as follows.

1) Theft is the forceful taking of another person’s justly acquired property

2) Capitalist private property is legitimate

3) Expropriation is the compulsory taking of a capitalist’s private property by the workers

4) Given 1-3 expropriation is a form of theft.

A Socialist can respond to this argument by denying (2) and thus if (2) is false it follows that a Socialist can accept the N.A.P while simultaneously advocating expropriation. Therefore, Anarcho-Capitalists are mistaken if they believe that they need only convince Socialists of the truth of the N.A.P because a Socialist may accept its truth while denying the legitimacy of private property and so rejecting the Anarcho-Capitalist position. Rather, if Anarcho-Capitalists are to defend their position they must convince Socialists that private property is legitimate. If they do not the N.A.P is of no use to a defender of capitalism and is irrelevant to arguments for the morality or immorality of expropriation.

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